Erdogan vows to impose 'Arabic' Ottoman lessons in schools

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Monday to make lessons in the Arabic-alphabet Ottoman language compulsory in high schools - a highly symbolic move which enraged secularists who claim he is pursuing an increasingly Islamist agenda.

Istanbul: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Monday to make lessons in the Arabic-alphabet Ottoman language compulsory in high schools - a highly symbolic move which enraged secularists who claim he is pursuing an increasingly Islamist agenda.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, abolished the Ottoman language in 1928, replacing its Arabic alphabet with a Latin one.

He also purged the language of many of its Arabic, Persian and Greek words to create a "pure" Turkish closer to the language people spoke.

Critics claimed the plan was another bid to roll back Ataturk's secular reforms, which were based on a strict separation between religion and state.

Turkey's National Education Council, largely made up of members backed by Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, voted at the weekend to make Ottoman classes compulsory at religious high schools and an option at regular high schools.

The council also voted to ban bartending classes at tourism training schools.

Erdogan argued the lessons were necessary to restore severed ties with "our roots", with most unable to read the tombstones of their ancestors.

"There are those who do not want this to be taught. This is a great danger. Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language will be learnt and taught in this country," Erdogan told a religious council meeting in Ankara.

"It's not a foreign language. It's a form of Turkish that will never age."

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lashed out at the critics, saying: "Why are they so allergic to history? Why this hatred of culture? It is beyond our comprehension."

In one particularly emotive phrase, Erdogan compared Ataturk's abolition of the language to cutting Turkey's "jugular veins".

"It is a disaster that this nation, which had superior scientific qualities, has lost its wisdom," he said.

Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu charged that the moves were aimed at stopping children from "questioning the world".

"They want to make Turkey into a medieval country, but they will never succeed."

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